David Cameron gave a speech yesterday in which he attempted to distance himself from the economic and political legacy of Black Wednesday (an event in which he played a backroom role – see the photo on the right from today’s Times).
David Cameron’s connections with the Major years are worth some scrutiny. As ConservativeHome’s review of the leadership contest suggested – Mr Cameron was elected, like John Major, with the votes of The Right. IDS, Redwood, Howarth, Hayes and Fox were among the leading right-wingers who declared for him. The right soon became disappointed with Major and there must be a danger that the same happens with David Cameron.
A post on the new Spectator blog gives such cause for concern. The Spectator’s headline is a bit colourful – "Top Cameron Aide [Nicholas Boles] Tells Right – Drop Dead" – but there is something in the story. Mr Boles, who is a close aide of Cameron, is reported as telling a meeting of right-wing think tanks that they would be disappointed by Mr Cameron if they expected him to depart from the moderate, modern compassionate conservatism of his leadership bid. "If you’re hoping for tax cuts, school choice and a tough line on the EU – forget it," is The Speccie Online Team’s interpretation. It continues:
"Whereas Labour is gearing up to claim that Cameron is secretly a hard core Thatcherite who is using clever spin to shield an extreme agenda, it seems more likely that the truth is Cameron is what he seems – a traditional Conservative who does not think there is much wrong with Britain, and will resemble Macmillan and Major, not Thatcher, albeit with better PR. Gove is useful bait to attract some elements on the Right, but the ideological tone will be set by Edward Llewellyn, his new Chief of Staff and former Chief of Staff to Patten."
- The managerial approach to public service reform – emphasising rigour and standards, rather than choice.
- A cautious approach to tax and support for big spending increases.
- The adoption of long-term policy reviews/ commissions.
- Kyoto environmentalism (personified by the return of John Gummer).
- A cautious approach to localism (marked by the appointment of the centralising Ken Clarke to run the "Democracy TaskForce").
There are, of course, differences between Cameron and Major. Cameron is more charismatic, for example. John Redwood is part of DC’s team – albeit in the semi-detached Economic Competitiveness Policy Group. Nonetheless the comparison is worthy of further study… and vigilance.